Silk water flowed around her, enveloping her in a world of murmuring silence. Even the brilliant rays of the sun, preening golden in its ascendance, only registered as a lazy, bobbing circle in the shimmering sparkles and rippled reflections of the lagoon. Bright flashes of silver fish darted about her, nibbled lovingly at her fingertips and the ends of her flowing, fern-like hair before flitting away in a coy, flippant dance.
Relena sighed, gazing up through the film of water. After that exhibition in the Dean's office, Dr. Allbright had enlisted the help of Mr. Piere, a small, mousy psychologist that had a habit of fidgeting nervously, shifting from one foot to the other, tapping the butt of his pen absently against his open palm. It seemed as if he had to be constantly in motion to function and even then, it was rather painful to watch as he jerked his head up self-consciously, his voice uncertain with a nasal quality to it. They met once a week now and he, in his infinite wisdom, had concluded that her fits were because of some traumatic experience that was trying to surface to her conscious.
"It would seem," He said with a nervous smile, "That you are fighting this memory, whatever it is. That you don't want to...er... re-me-mber."
Relena had barely stopped from rolling her eyes. She could have told him that.
Small, pearling bubbles broke past her lips and burbled towards the surface, breaking ever so gently against the first touch of air and she smiled contentedly as the memory seemed to fizzle away with the bubbles of air. The aqua sea flowed lazily around her, inducing a comfortable warmth against her skin that was reminiscent of embracing arms, cherishing and quietly loving. She could stay here forever...if only her lungs would indulge her. Unfortunately, she was no fish and her oxygen-starved body finally demanded that she seek the skies before tinges of pain began rippling across her body.
With a swift kick that sent the sea bottom churning into a sandy mist, she promptly propelled herself upwards until she shattered the water, glasslike fragments flying wildly around her, refracting and gleaming like miniature orbs for a brief second before they dropped again, tittering like wind chimes against the surface of the sea. Her delighted chuckle rang in a soprano counterpoint to the hushed song of the lagoon, and the waters seem to throw her laugh back at her, rollicking her playfully back and forth in the motion of their waves.
"Oi, Rel! Re-le-na!!"
Relena glanced around, eyes skimming briefly through the colorfully dressed swimmers before locating the source of that call and she smiled, a little foolishly because she was happy to be there, and waved back at the exuberantly gesturing teen. From this far away, she couldn't see his sparkling amethyst eyes (Devil's eyes, his teachers called them, to match his personality), but his grin made a white slash against his sun-burnt face and his wet braid hung sloppily around his shoulders and hips in thick, mahogany coils. Cupping his hands around his mouth, he yelled, "'Jousan! Come in for the day, okay? McHatton wants us to start on our bio projects since we're here at the reefs so Jeremy's calling everyone back to shore!"
"Fine!" Relena called back and felt a twinge of regret as she began swimming for shore, her arms gliding easily into the water in tandem with the light kicking of her feet. Duo tossed her a thick, fluffy pink towel as she emerged from the water and she grinned, toweling off her salt-encrusted body before draping the towel lightly across her shoulders. She was more alive than she had ever felt before; without the depressingly bare gray walls of her dormitory or the almost claustrophobic suffocation of small classrooms, the wind whistled and teased through the long, tangled tendrils of her hair and the cheerful warmth of the sun brought a healthy glow to her pale skin.
"Gee, is 'jousan actually enjoying herself?" Duo teased unmercifully and Relena forgot for a second that she was Evania U's most reserved charity student and stuck her tongue out at her friend haughtily, tilting her nose into the air. "I don't get it, Rel. When you run, you trip over your own shoelaces and fall flat on your face. When you bike, you get dizzy and have to be taken to the infirmary. Hell, when you play soccer-"
"I kicked the ball!" Relena said defensively and Hilde, who was listening to the conversation, laughed and hid her face against Duo's broad shoulder in a vain gesture to keep Relena from seeing the tears of mirth that were forming at the corner of her eyes.
Absently, Duo wound his arm around his girlfriend's waist, but that didn't stop him from snorting derisively, "Right 'jousan. You kicked it all right...right into the coach's face!"
Relena blushed guiltily, remembering that incident all too well. Poor Coach Dykes had been knocked unconscious for a full five minutes until the nurse was called in to revive him. When he had finally awakened, he had ordered her to resign from the field in disgrace. Her inability to play sports had finally been taken into consideration and the administration had, after much pleading by both herself and her teachers, allowed her to drop athletics from her curriculum.
But Duo didn't notice her reaction, his voice was actually more puzzled than teasing as he said thoughtfully, "But in water, someone that didn't know you well could swear that you were the most graceful athlete alive...until they saw you trip on dried kelp, of course. But what's up with that?"
Relena inclined her head to one side thoughtfully, "I don't know. I've always had a love for the sea." Her eyes took on a far away look as she gazed out into the shimmering ocean, watching the roiling waves tumble playfully into the sand. "I guess its because I have fond memories of the beaches as a child..." Except...the social workers found me in downtown...I don't quite remember my childhood either. Vague, little thoughts that are gone as soon as I reach for them...a boy with long, whitish-blonde hair that stood above my crib once? It's a little weird...everyone always talks about when they were kids...I can't remember...
A nudge at her side jolted her out of her reverie, and she glanced reproachfully at Duo as she rubbed the abused rib with the palm of her hand. "What?"
"Come on, Rel, they're setting up the food! And I'm hungry!" With that plaintive whine, Duo grabbed Hilde's hand and proceeded to drag her over to the place where the aroma of fresh fish was beginning to waft from the open pits. Relena smiled in amusement as her two friends walked away and for a brief second, the memory of a day not so different from this flitted through her mind. Except it had been sunset that day, and only she walked along the shoreline. No...someone else too...she and-
"Rel, come on!"
"Coming!" Her attention diverted, she grabbed her bag and jogged through the shifting beach sands towards the rest of the class. The rest of the day was spent happily inspecting dark purple sea urchins and letting the prickly hermit crabs crawl awkwardly over their palms. Every so often the ocean would murmur something that was almost a word, almost a phrase but no one noticed as they splashed through the tide pools and poked at a poor, flustered sea slug that eventually squirted Duo in the face with ink. Sometimes Relena looked up, eyes narrowed in concentration as if she was trying to hear some far off whisper in her ear. But the shrill cries of the white seagulls always seemed to mask it, or the crashing roar of the surf drowned it out, so nothing quite penetrated into her conscious mind.
The sound of whispering drew her out of sleep and groggily, Relena blinked dazedly around her, trying to locate the source of these murmured, sibilant voices. Not moving from the confines of her warm sleeping bag, she rotated her head around slowly, but all she saw were the multi-colored rows of sleeping bags lying along the beach. The low, flickering fire caste a warm gold and orange glow over the beachside, illuminating the shadows to some degree, but beyond the circle of students, there was only a deep, melancholy indigo streaked with the darker colors of soft sable and purple.
We call to you who loves the sea...come back, R'lina
There it was again! Relena sat up, staring intently, staring out at the crashing surf as whispers flowed around her, like some lost melody of her youth that she had just begun to recognize. In the silence of the night without the yelling and screaming of her classmates, she could hear the intonation of more than one voice joined in a unified chorus, some deeper, like the rough caress of burlap, some as rich as the finest satin cloth. Her mind slowly separated the different voices, most of whom she did not know, but there was one that she felt uneasily drawn to, the quiet baritone that had always been whispering to her at the back of her mind. There was more steel in his tone than soft cajoling; but despite that, she found his voice (familiar?) more compelling than the rest of them, and instinctively took a few steps forward towards the crying waves below.
There was something hypnotically reassuring about the cauldron pot of voices; they seemed to meld into each other, complement each other like dripping notes in a music score, each enhanced by the previous murmur of pure sound. Almost without thinking, Relena found herself scooting through the shifting sands of the beach towards the water's edge in blind obedience as the light breeze made the light grains swirl about her ankles and knees in mini whorling hurricanes. Absently, she noticed that the waves had taken on an eerie silver illumination, tinges of saffron-yellow skimming just under the surface of the sea, live threads of magic that were weaving themselves into a shimmering mandola, but even that strangeness did not quite penetrate.
Time seemed to have frozen around that one instant; the shadows neither grew longer nor shorter and on the beachhead, the once flickering glow of the campfire seemed tranced, the orange-red glow frozen in its position in the sky like a foolish blot of paint on black canvas.
We need you here...we want you.
Imouto...lover...friend...princess...Lady...The words swirled in her head without coherent sense and Relena could feel a frown knit between her eyes and for a second she shook her head slightly to shake off the thrall of her unquestioning obedience. She looked around, realizing in amazement that she was already into the waters up to her thighs and that the cold chill of the water had soaked through her denim jeans, making them cling to her legs wetly and she shivered, from fear or the cold, she didn't know. What on Earth...?
Bright lights suddenly exploded in front of her eyes, and the turbid waters slammed violently against her, rising above her head to twist and writhe in an emulation of a sea serpent just short of striking. Before Relena could do more than register a sense of terror, the line of water had wrapped around her, binding her knees and arms against her in a semi-fetal position, filling her mouth and nostrils with the sharp bite of salt water until the was surrounded in a liquid chrysalis.
She felt the first pang of pain in her chest, then it quickly expanded to the rest of her body until she arched her back in agony, trying to relieve the tension that strung her muscles to the breaking point. Ruthlessly, something twisted her body as if trying to pull it into an opening that was too small for it; she could feel her nerve endings warping and convulsing in little ripples and she opened her mouth in a silent cry of pain, her tears joining the stream of salt water that encompassed her. But it didn't stop.
Instinctively, she began fighting her capture with the desperate determination of a trapped animal, throwing her will against the threads of magic that had begun weaving a sheltering cocoon of light and shimmer about the watery chrysalis. Slender fibers tore under her attack, then fall away like a shorn length of cloth and multiple protests raised in her mind, the voices scolding and rebuking as if she were a recalcitrant child.
Shut up! Relena blazed at them. Her eyes had begun to blur from lack of oxygen and she could feel her body failing her. What are you doing to me?!
She could see the silver and gold lines distinctively now; the silver lines had woven into a delicate tapestry of shadows and light and the gold danced along its surface like an embroidery needle, strange symbols that she had never seen before imprinting onto the surface of the magical working. It sheened the surface of the water like fine-blown glass but when she pushed against the barrier, she found it unwavering and unyielding as steel.
Imouto, exhale. This new voice was imperious, commanding, but unlike the baritone, it did not have the same humanity that lay just beneath the surface of his coldness. Relena narrowed her eyes.
Like hell I'll exhale! And I don't have a fucking older brother!
You don' t what?!-never mind! This isn't the time for that. Breathe!
No! If Relena could have managed it, her chin would have jutted forth stubbornly and her arms would have crossed across her chest. I'm not a fish. I can't breathe salt water...if you're trying to kill me, I won't help you! The mind voice growled angrily, almost vibrating with frustration and suddenly a fist seized around her diaphragm, forcing the air from her lungs in a choked gasp.
The water turned into a sable cloak of nothingness and time warped the long thread of space into a tortured curve. For second, Relena fancied that she saw a field of star yawning before her, opening new pathways to wherever she wanted to go; then she was snapped forward in a ruthless jerk and found herself suddenly standing on her own feet, weak and shaken. Immediately, her legs buckled and she would have fallen but two arms caught her shoulders, drawing her forward into the circle of his arms and instinctively, she leaned against the hard wall of his chest, completely exhausted from both her struggle and her trip.
"Welcome home, allana."
*allana: my love (yes, I just couldn't resist. ^_~)
Shouts out go to:
sweet__angel, Athame, Ley, Kristine, Cassie, Crystal, Beth, Mint, Lady Legalos, me, Goldberry, Meio-chan, Silver Wing (like in Prelate's this is a made up language for a made-up place), mama-sama, and angelic1090; thank you, you've all been very supportive! ^________^ luv ya'll! *HUGZ* arigato for waiting patiently until I posted!
Ohayo! If you want to be notified when the next chapter is posted, leave your email address please and I'll send out what COULD be termed as an Author's Alert. Or if you want, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll be sure to get back to you! ^_~ have a nice day!